Brazilian Supreme Court Approves Benefits Assistance for Foreign Residents
Brazil’s Supreme Court recently decided to grant welfare benefits to foreign residents. The benefits at issue are referred to in Português as Benefício da Prestação Continuada and apply to the elderly and disabled.
The Court made its decision in connection with a petition by an Italian resident who has lived in Brazil since 1952. She had applied for welfare benefits from the INSS (National Institute of Social Services). According to Article 203, Item V of the Federal Constitution, residents have the right to such services.
In the Supreme Court’s opinion, Justice Marco Aurélio highlighted the contributions that foreigners have made in laying the foundations of the country. He pointed out that Brazil’s Constitution did not make a distinction between Brazilians and foreigners when it made it law to offer assistance to those in need. He continued:
Side by side with the indigenous people, the country was formed by immigrants, the majority European, who fostered the development of the nation and contributed greatly to the creation and consolidation of Brazilian culture…Since the creation of the Brazilian nation, the presence of foreigners in the country was encouraged and tolerated, making it inconsistent with history to establish a differentiation based on nationality, especially when dignity is in question, at a time of human frailty, old age or some form of disability.
The Court also cited Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which deals with the principle of equality and the need for isonomic treatment among Brazilians and foreign residents.
Though the decision was unanimous, there were still some questions raised about its potential consequences. Among some of the arguments against the granting of benefits to foreign residents was a fear that such an action would cause an increase in migration of foreigners to reside in Brazil to take advantage of the benefits. However, this criticism was rejected since in reality few foreigners residing in Brazil actually claim any benefits.
There are currently 478 pending court cases involving foreigners applying for benefits, and the attorney general has said that the financial impact of the decision could drain an estimated 60 million reais per year from the government. To qualify for benefits, a foreign national will be required to declare their income and prove any special conditions or disabilities that may aid in their qualification.